Doctors See and Measure Pain with Brain Scans

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A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that scientists used brain scans to measure pain and pain relief in patients.

Pain is the number one reason that people visit the hospital, and finding relief from serious and chronic pain can be a long and sometimes addictive journey. This breakthrough will allow doctors in the future to tell whether paralyzed people, those suffering from dementia or infants are in pain. It may also allow doctors to prescribe more effective and less addictive medications for pain.

Patients self-report pain, but there is no objective measurement of it, or of relief. Scans will standardize the measures of pain between individuals, and will help in their treatment. The scans also may allow doctors to objectively measure and diagnose the mental and physical components of PTSD and depression.

As Dr. Ropper wrote,

“This is beginning to open a new wedge into brain science. There may be completely novel ways of treating pain by focusing on these areas of the brain rather than on conventional medications which block pain impulses from getting into the spinal cord and brain.”

You can read more here.